In an ideal world, the role of education would try to balance preparing students to cope with their working life while also giving them a liberal dose of varied ideas which hopefully would broaden their minds. In fact, school life is largely balanced in this regard as almost all key subjects from literature, to science, mathematics, liberal arts and social sciences are touched upon. In a way, school life is preparing students to explore the myriad hues of professional life that they experience later on. At the same time it is also providing students an insight into what they like best, what they believe will engage them from a long term perspective and to help them choose a career path.
While school life provides a strong foundation for balanced learning, it is the professional courses that focus on preparing students for a working life. To that extent the subjects, the learning and the emphasis is skewed towards making a career in the chosen field, and rightly so. In a competitive world, expert knowledge and core experience would help a student become a good professional. Where professional courses flounder is in their unidimensional approach to education. They assume that every student is keen to make a career only in the area of study each has chosen. This is flawed because the individuality of the student is not taken into account and in a dynamically changing world, students change likes, preferences and future options. It is in this context that professional courses need to inherit a syllabus that also help students broaden their mind, explore varied avenues and discover new perspectives.
Education should enable students to discover opportunities that are in sync with their innate abilities, hidden talents, deeper interests and underlying passion. This is possible only when the thrust of education is towards broadening the mind of the students. Even in a formal work life focused education, it is possible to incorporate mind broadening syllabus and learning methodology. Emphasis should be placed on learning, experimentation, creativity and self discovery. Failure must not be condemned but encouraged so that students are not afraid to fail. More importantly they learn that failure is a natural process in the learning curve. Similarly, students will look inward to their personal lives, their personal preferences, their inner urges and possibly also discover latent talents and passions.
Basic education prepares students to be familiar with the fundamentals of language, mathematics, science and social sciences. This education will give them the means to seamlessly integrate with the world around them and become a functional part of society in general and in the world at large. Education that is focused on broadening the mind will give students the opportunity to experiment, fail, discover, succeed, be creative and explore. This would add the finishing touches to make them well moulded to adapt to any situation, cope with crisis, remain grounded and above all value others around them. The type of education to be imparted cannot be put into water tight compartments of focusing either on preparing students for a working life or alternatively broadening their minds. The role of education hence cannot be an ‘either/or’ option simply because education is a lifelong process and every individual continues to be a student for his/ her whole life and would always benefit from both sets of inputs.
Some profound insights on education, shared by two eminent personalities put the matter in proper perspective. Mark Twain was bang on when he said ‘I have never let my schooling interfere with my education’. Martin Luther King, Jr. has the final say in concluding that ‘The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. ‘